Valerie Ervin is taking Kevin Kamenetz's place in the Democratic primary campaign for governor.
Valerie Ervin is taking Kevin Kamenetz's place in the Democratic primary campaign for governor. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

Valerie Ervin is officially a Democratic candidate for governor — but how voters will actually cast a ballot for her remains unclear.

Ervin’s name will not appear on ballot papers as a candidate for governor, the state elections administrator confirmed in a court filing Friday, and with only three and a half weeks left before early voting begins in the Democratic primary, officials say they’re still figuring out how people will vote for her.


Linda Lamone, the state’s top elections official, filed an affidavit Friday in a case unrelated to Ervin’s candidacy, saying she had consulted with her staff and local elections directors in making her decision.

Ervin, a former Montgomery County councilwoman who was the gubernatorial running mate to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, announced on Thursday that she will run in his place after his unexpected death. She named Marisol Johnson, a former member of the Baltimore County school board, as her own running mate.

But Lamone wrote that it was too late to change ballots, which are already being printed.

“Accordingly, at my direction, my staff informed the directors of the local boards that we would be working with local boards to develop appropriate alternative measures,” Lamone wrote. Those measures would include how to alert voters to the change in candidacy, how voters would select her and how local officials should count votes.

Proof versions of the ballots to be issued to Democratic primary voters show Ervin’s name appearing beneath Kamenetz’s. It’s not clear how a vote cast by filling the bubble next to their names will be counted.

Early voting begins on June 14 and Election Day is June 26.

Nikki Charlson, Lamone’s deputy, told The Baltimore Sun on Friday that elections officials were in discussions with the Maryland attorney general’s office but, “We don’t have a plan yet.”

“We know we need to do it,” she said.

The law allows the surviving running mate of a candidate who dies to run as a “successor candidate” and directs elections officials to list the names of such candidates and their running mates on the ballot. But the law also allows officials to take alternative steps if they determine there’s not enough time to create new ballots.

Lamone filed her affidavit in response to a renewed effort to get the Maryland Court of Appeals to remove the name of Nathaniel Oaks from the ballot for a Baltimore state senate race following his guilty pleas to federal fraud charges. The state’s top court rejected that request Friday.

Resolving the questions about how voters will opt for her in June is just one of the challenges Ervin faces in making a late entry to the race. She is not well known outside Montgomery County and likely won’t be able to access $2 million in campaign funds Kamenetz had raised. She is recruiting her own staff rather than relying on his team.

Ervin filed a campaign finance disclosure on Friday showing she has $164,000 to work with. Almost all of that was money she raised before Kamenetz died May 10. Like other gubernatorial teams, Kamenetz and Ervin maintained separate campaign accounts, potentially allowing donors to give more money before reaching the legal cap. But that structure now means Ervin doesn’t have access to money donated to Kamenetz’s account.

Ervin’s campaign did not respond to questions about the ballot or her finances, but in a post Friday evening on Twitter, she wrote: "Any champion of democracy who wants Maryland voters to decide this election should want our Ervin Johnson ticket on the Democratic primary ballot."

She told the website Maryland Matters in an interview published Friday that she hoped to meet with Lamone and get legal advice about Kamenetz’s funds.


Ervin’s new report shows that in the last month, Ervin accepted more than $95,000 in campaign donations, many of them from companies that have a history of being generous to Kamenetz’s campaigns.

Ten of the donations totaling $38,000 came from businesses sharing a post office box in Timonium. The names of many of the companies match up with properties owned by Hill Management.

Ervin’s campaign also accepted $6,000 — the maximum — from Edward St. John, chairman of St. John Properties. Unite Here Local 25, a union for hotel workers that endorsed Ervin and Kamenetz, also gave $6,000 to Ervin’s account.

Ervin’s account also received $6,180 from a joint account that Kamenetz and Ervin formed this spring. That transaction was dated Tuesday.

Ervin has suggested that she’s hoping to get support from Emily’s List, a national group that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights.

The organization won’t yet say if it will back Ervin.

“We are looking at this race and keeping an eye on the new developments,” said Kristen Hernandez, campaign communications manager for Emily’s List. “We’re always excited to see more women running for office, especially Democratic women.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this story.